Some Newfoundland residents hit by Fiona are still awaiting federal aid

Some residents of southwest Newfoundland are still in limbo nearly five months after post-tropical storm Fiona destroyed their homes.  (Rene Roy/Wreckhouse Press via The Canadian Press - photo credit)

Some residents of southwest Newfoundland are still in limbo nearly five months after post-tropical storm Fiona destroyed their homes. (Rene Roy/Wreckhouse Press via The Canadian Press – photo credit)

Rene Roy/Wreckhouse Press via The Canadian Press

Rene Roy/Wreckhouse Press via The Canadian Press

Nearly five months after post-tropical storm Fiona devastated the area, some residents of the southwest coast of Newfoundland are still waiting for money from the provincial government to rebuild their lives.

Peggy Moore Savery and her husband still live in the basement of their niece’s house. Her blue house, destroyed and hanging by a thread on a cliff face in Port aux Basques, became a representative image for much of the media coverage during the storm and the days that followed.

“I was not compensated. I still don’t have a home. I haven’t heard from the government what we’re going to get and how we’re going to get it and when we’re going to get it,” Savery said in a recent interview with CBC News.

“None of us, not one person in all those 100 [homes] saw a penny off our forms we had to fill out for federal or state funds. We saw a little bit of the Red Cross at the very beginning.”

Overall, the storm destroyed or damaged more than 250 homes across southwest Newfoundland. The Canadian Red Cross raised millions in aid.

Moore Savery said she was told more money was coming from the organization soon, but not enough for people to get on with their lives.

She said there’s no indication of what those affected can do, whether it’s building or buying a new home, or what they can afford.

“Up to this point, many of us haven’t heard a word,” said Moore Savery.

Energy Secretary Andrew Parsons, the MHA for the district, acknowledged residents’ frustration.

He said the first checks had been delivered, but the raid would ensure transparency and accountability for the $30 million in public money being used to help those affected. That money is separate from Red Cross funds, which Parsons said were used in the early days after the disaster to help people get back on their feet.

Malone Mullin/CBC

Malone Mullin/CBC

“We actually had to develop the program that we use. So I know it’s taking some time right now, but people are seeing it coming in, people have had meetings where they sign the letters,” Parsons said Thursday.

“In many cases we have gone out and actually hired legal counsel to help people understand what they are doing. I know it’s not fast enough, but I also think, if you think about it, it’s a very generous package from government that wasn’t legally required.”

Dorothy Bragg is also in limbo. Her home, where she had lived for 49 years, was demolished about five days after the storm due to significant damage to the foundation.

Bragg said she and her family lived with her brother and then in her cabin for the first five weeks after Fiona. They moved to a hotel when the weather turned cold.

“We’re hoping to have a place to live in what we call home next fall,” Bragg said.

“We worked hard for what we had. And seeing it all destroyed was horrible and it hurts to even look at it now. It’s still standing at the moment, but it’s being demolished.”

She said she did not expect to receive any money but was awaiting a response from the government as to what her family would receive in compensation.

Takes time to get it right: Parsons

Parsons said the process isn’t as simple as writing a check; Several insurance adjusters have been involved since the process began in November and the provincial government wants to make sure they are doing everything right.

He said there is a waiting process while caseworkers finish their work, and new files come through his office every day.

“There are people who have been to my office and signed their forms and sent them back, and many of them are extremely happy given the circumstances,” Parsons said.

“Everything has to be checked carefully. There’s going to be an auditor general looking at it, so I’d rather take a little time to get it right.”

Moore Savery said some people can’t afford to wait and will take on new mortgages and debt simply because they need a place to live. She said Newfoundland and Labrador Housing provides rental funds but people are ready to get on with their lives.

“We can’t move forward until we know what we’re working with,” she said.

“We’re older and it’s really difficult for us to start over at our age because we don’t know where to start, because we have no indication of what we’re going to do or how we’re going to get there.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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